Few governments in the history of humanity have been so criminal and so destructive as the National-Socialist regime that prevailed in Germany between 1933 and 1945. When Adolf Hitler in 1939 invaded Poland, thereby firing the opening salvo for WWII, this led to a global conflict and series of massacres which would see over 50 million people dead – more than in any war in the history of civilization. The blame for this is laid first and foremost among all Axis nations on Nazi Germany. Yet what that regime is most known for is not even its destructive wars, but most particularly its genocidal policies of hateful murder called the Holocaust or Shoah, in which millions of Jews, Slavs, Sinti & Roma, homosexuals, Communists and other ‘undesirables’ were ruthlessly destroyed. The memory of these events is still alive very strongly, at least in Europe, and there are few historical periods about which more books have been written than the Nazi period. Yet despite the popular familiarity with the subject, there is still much missing in the common version of events; in particular, the question not of how this came to pass, but why, deserves fuller attention. Fortunately, some excellent works of history have been written about the context of the events leading up to and including the Nazi destruction, aiding us in the task of understanding.
There are two aspects of the Nazi state and its machinery that have remained, at least until recently(1), underemphasized. The first is the economic impetus for Nazi Germany to make its policies as it did, and to wage war the way it did and at its given time. The second is the colonial context within which the entire enterprise of national-socialism, both as a practice and as an ideology, must be understood. These two issues are closely related, as the Nazi party and its ideology would have been impossible if it did not bring out the latent destructive potentials of the late colonial period more generally – what was unique about it was the ruthlessness of its implementation, and most importantly, the fact that it was aimed against Europe. The Nazi state and its ideology was nothing other than the racial-imperial ideology and the extractive-military reality of colonialism combined in the most violent and explosive manner possible, and to the shock of all contemporary observers, it aimed its hammer-blows not against the familiar victims in Africa or Asia, but against the peoples of Europe itself. Moreover, it did so only 30-odd years after the end of the last Great War, which was generally assumed to have been ‘the war to end all wars’. Such a threat to the integrity of the European system had not been seen since the Napoleonic wars, if not the Ottoman siege of Vienna. It is therefore very worth exploring, in as summary a way as can be done, how this was possible. Continue reading “What was Nazi Germany? – Part I”